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Electronic

Name that number

The history of Detroit's first techno record

From the Detroit techno archives.
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Published 11/21/2001

some bread and cheese and fine white wine designer sheets are but a matter of time...

—"Sharevari," 1981

Our story begins in the winter of 1980. A few friends that Mojo would later dub “A Number of Names” are getting ready to go out to a party club, listening to Prince’s newly released Dirty Mind.

“The whole car ride there we were arguing over what was going to be the next thing, Prince or New Wave,” recalls member Sterling Jones. “When we arrived at the club — the ballroom of the YWCA — we could hear the muffled sounds of the music through the doors. When they finally opened, it was a futuristic sight — the whole crowd was moving in unison to ‘Rock Lobster.’ You can guess who lost that argument.”

Later that summer Paul Lesley and Jones (childhood friends who formed the creative nucleus of A Number of Names) and crew took a demo version of their new song, “Sharevari,” down to the Mojo. That and a few advance plays at the party clubs earned the song a massive reputation. By the time it dropped in 1981, it was already a classic. It has since been regarded as the first Detroit techno record, lost to obscurity until Keith Tucker and his Puzzlebox Records rediscovered these gentlemen and got them to participate in the DEMF 2001.

The birth of techno

Revolutions come from the strangest places, and Detroit techno is no exception. Finding roots in the burgeoning Detroit party club scene, the aesthetics of the future were born out of forward-thinking high-school kids of the late ’70s and early ’80s. These select few were looking for a flavor of an exotic nature; these kids created their own scene outside of existing club life.

Lesley remembers, “We never felt like youth trapped in Detroit. We felt like we already had worldly experiences, even though we were still in high school.”

Party clubs such as Direct Drive, Charivari (from the name of a New York clothing store, later changed for the song title) and Capriccio existed not in specific venues, but in exclusive areas with parties that paid attention to every detail, laying the groundwork for the techno revolution to come. Emphasis was placed on atmosphere: special locations (ranging from big backyards to ballrooms with all the seats taken out — you had to dance), sound systems (as loud as they could play it), skilled DJs, lighting, people dressed up in GQ, purple pants and New Wave sunglasses. Style was everything.

“Sharevari”’s really it

Deciding to unite the party crews and galvanize the scene, ANON set out to make their anthem. The song, “Sharevari,” according to Lesley “was about the quintessential guy from that scene.”

The construction of the song was influenced largely by DJs, with the feeling that you’re listening to multiple records being mixed. The chorus most clearly shows the party-mix influence: the way the vocals repeat like a DJ rocking doubles, the multitude of keyboard lines. “Sharevari” was Detroit’s first electronic record to respond to what the DJ added to the music, laying the groundwork for generations to come.

The original “Sharevari” and remixes by Adult., Eddie Fowlkes, Godfather, Strand et al are imminent from Keith Tucker’s Puzzlebox Records. For further information on the record and ANON, check out Dan Sicko’s Techno Rebels at www.techno-rebels.com.

Brendan M. Gillen writes about and performs electronic music. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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